Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce came together in Boston five years ago. They won one championship and appeared in another NBA Finals with multiple appearances in the Eastern Conference Finals.
While Allen, Garnett and Pierce could all continue to play together in Boston, they will no longer be the prominent figures of the team. Of the three, only Pierce actually remains under contract but after his playoff performances, it is possible that the Celtics may move him in favor of using the cap space that his $16 million contract is engaging.
The Celtics have plenty of different avenues to explore entering this off-season.
Retain the Big Three:
It is not a good idea to be a mediocre team in the NBA. If you aren't capable of challenging for an NBA title, it is better to be one of the worst teams in the league because the worst teams are rewarded in the draft lottery.
None of the big three are capable of being leading superstars for the Celtics going into the future. However if they are willing to drop into peripheral roles, then the big three can definitely come back. Instead of paying Paul Pierce $16 million next year, the three would have to combine for roughly $16 million if they are going to come back.
That is unlikely as a lot of work would need to be done on Pierce's contract while Allen and Garnett will get better, at least financially better, deals from other teams. If the big three believe that Rajon Rondo can carry them to a championship, they may be willing to play lesser roles.
Disband the Big Three Completely:
Not re-signing Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett will free up $31 million against the cap. Paul Pierce could be amnestied or traded to a contender. Without Pierce, Allen and Garnett on the roster, the Celtics would have a clean slate to build around Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass.
Role players like Mickael Pietrus, Keyon Dooling and Marquis Daniels would likely be retained while Jeff Green should be back after being released by the team last year after injury.
From there, the team's options will be determined by Doc Rivers' belief in Rajon Rondo. If Rivers feels the team can contend with Rondo carrying them, then he will build a team ready to compete for a title. In that instance Paul Pierce could return as a sixth man, while bigs such as Kenyon Martin and Kris Humphries would become options.
Center depth was a major issue for the Celtics last year and this off-season provides them options aplenty. Chris Kaman and Nazr Mohammed are very good unrestricted free agent options, while restricted free agents Roy Hibbert, Brook Lopez, JaVale McGee and Robin Lopez will intrigue the Celtics' coaching staff.
It's unclear what the Celtics will do with their two first round draft picks this year. The option is there to package both picks, potentially with a player included, to move up in what is considered a relatively deep class in the lottery.
Picking 21st and 22nd, the Celtics would be delighted to land Fab Melo from Syracuse and Quincy Miller from Baylor. Baylor is a small forward while Melo is a huge defensive presence at center. Unless Harrison Barnes slides, it seems unlikely that the Celtics will trade up.
With Bradley and Rondo at both starting guard positions, there isn't a need for the Celtics to trade up for any guards. Brandon Bass and the probable return of Jeff Green removes the need for another power forward while there isn't another small forward worth trading up for outside of Barnes. There is options at center with Melo so there will be no need for the Celtics to trade up for a center in all likelihood.
The Celtics aren't generally a very active team in the off-season, this year will be very different as substantial rebuilding will take place regardless of whether the Big Three returns or not. It may not all be positive this year, but there will be palpable levels of intrigue throughout the 12 months of the calender year for Celtics fans in 2012.
Pieces are already in place, but General Manager Danny Ainge has a lot of work to do and a lot of decisions to make.